‘Delight’ as Ripon Spa Baths reopens but Knaresborough and Starbeck pools stay shut
Ripon Spa Baths has reopened today (14 May) after more than a year of closures caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
The baths was forced to close in March 2020 when the first lockdown came into force and has stayed shut until today due to staff supporting frontline council services stretched by the pandemic.
All swimming pools, leisure centres and gyms were allowed to reopen last month when other Harrogate council-run sites including the Hydro, Nidderdale Pool and Ripon Leisure Centre made a return.
However, Knaresborough Pool and Starbeck Baths are still shut, and it remains unclear when they will reopen.
This is because maintenance works at Knaresborough Pool due to be carried out by specialist engineers from Spain have been halted by travel restrictions, the council previously said, although it added it was trying to find a UK-based firm to fix the problem.
Meanwhile, the council's cabinet member for culture, tourism and sport, councillor Stanley Lumley, previously said it was hoped Starbeck Baths would reopen shortly after Ripon Spa Baths but a date has yet to be announced.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service today, he said: "I'm delighted we have now been able to reopen Ripon Spa Baths and we are keen to get every other site open as soon as possible.
"With the challenge of staff being redeployed into frontline services, we are now getting our leisure services back up and running slowly but surely. We are running a strong recruitment campaign to fill the shortfall of staff and that is well on its way.
"We have also now ordered the equipment needed for the repairs at Knaresborough Pool and while reopening will be longer than we had hoped, we are keenly progressing."
The return of Ripon Spa Baths today will be welcome news for swimmers but comes at a time when the building's future is shrouded in uncertainty.
Harrogate council has put the 116-year-old baths up for sale despite protests that it could lose its community use if snapped up by a private developer.
Groups including Ripon City Council, Ripon Civic Society and Ripon Together have called for the sale to be suspended to allow more time for proposals to be brought forward but their protests have been rejected.
A spokesperson for Harrogate council previously said: "We have no plans to withdraw the sale of Ripon Spa Baths.
"The building will soon become surplus to our requirements and we do not have the resources to maintain it.
“Selling the baths for redevelopment, subject to planning permission and listed building consents, would allow this local asset to be given a new lease of life, retain its key features and remain as a city landmark.
“Ripon City Council, or another interested party, is welcome to submit a bid."
The spokesperson also said the building is being sold because it will no longer be needed by the authority when the refurbishment of Ripon Leisure Centre is completed later this year.
The multi-million pound upgrades were due to be completed earlier in 2021 but have been hit by construction and Covid delays.
The spokesperson added: “Our strategy of disposing of assets no longer required means we have been able to invest more than £10m in Ripon.
“The city’s new state-of-the-art, bigger, and better swimming pool and refurbished leisure centre will open at the end of this year”.
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter